Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

“God Does Not Leave Us Comfortless.”
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Open to the Spirit :
God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us
Scot McKnight

Paperback: Waterbrook, 2018
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Reviewed by Julie Sumner
 
 

            Let it come, as it will, and don’t
            be afraid. God does not leave us
            comfortless, so let evening come.

                                    -Jane Kenyon

 
In Kenyon’s poem, “Let Evening Come,” she touches on a belief deeply held by Christians from all streams of the church: that God does not leave us without comfort. In each church that I have been a part of, whether Southern Baptist, Reformed Presbyterian, Episcopal, or non-denominational, that comfort is seen as a characteristic of the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. And yet despite this belief, as widely held as it is in the church, there is a pittance of instruction given about how to engage this comfort, this power, this person, that is otherwise so deeply affirmed by so many.

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A Big, Beautiful World
 
A Feature Review of

Creation Care: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World
Douglas Moo and Jonathan Moo

Paperback: Zondervan, 2018.
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Reviewed by James Honig

 

In the midst of the cacophony of strident voices in contemporary American politics and culture, one of the loudest strains of shouting back and forth across the fence is with regard to environmental issues, and particularly climate change and human causation. In the midst of the debate, what does the church have to say, and what must the church do? The father and son co-authors, Douglas and Jonathan Moo seek to answer those questions in their new book, Creation Care: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World.

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A Charming, Clear, Deeply Wise Guide 
 
A Feature Review of 
 

The Path Between Us:
An Enneagram Journey
to Healthy Relationships
Suzanne Stabile

Hardback: IVP Books, 2018
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Reviewed by MaryAnn McKibben Dana
 
 
It’s a common occurrence in our house—over breakfast, my husband Robert will say, “Well, this morning’s EnneaThought email was another head-scratcher.” Many Enneagram aficionados will know what I’m talking about: the Enneagram Institute sends a daily email, as short as a fortune cookie, and you can sign up based on one of the nine Enneagram personality types.

Some of these emails are so perceptive that they land with a convicting blow, which has made them the topic of much kvetching among friends. (Many of us have wished they were sent at some benign hour in the middle of the day, rather than wake up to them first thing in the morning.) Other EnneaThoughts are impenetrable, with references to divine essence and holy wisdom. It is these that my husband finds eye-rollingly puzzling.

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Winsomeness,
Generosity, and Hope
 
A Feature Review of

Christian Hospitality and Muslim
Immigration in an Age of Fear
Matthew Kaemingk

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2018
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Review by Tim Hoiland
 
 

Abbreviated from the review in 
our Lent 2018 magazine issue. 
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In recent years, refugees from Muslim-majority countries have risen on the list of threats we are instructed to fear. We have seen the videos of ISIS beheadings; we have seen what havoc car bombs wreak on people and property. Who’s to say the Somali family down the street doesn’t have sinister plans for the neighborhood? Who’s to say the Muslims in our city aren’t angling, through reproduction and supernatural patience, to become a democratic majority and eventually to impose Sharia law?
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The Future of Church Planting?
 
A Review of

Church Planting
in Post-Christian Soil:
Theology and Practice

Christopher James

 
Hardcover: Oxford UP, 2017
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Reviewed by Justin Cober-Lake
 
 
The dominant storyline says the church is decline in the global West. The “nones” are ascendant as the church loses its relevance. Then the story splits. The younger generation has no use for tradition; no, the younger generation seeks authenticity and needs a historically oriented liturgy. The church has become too inward-looking; the church has become too seeker sensitive. The church has become or not become a lot of things. It’s a bit of a mess, really.

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A Soundtrack for Self-Immolation
 
A review of

The Monk’s Record Player:
Thomas Merton, Bob Dylan, and the Perilous Summer of 1966
Robert Hudson

Hardback: Eerdmans, 2018
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Review by Sam Edgin

 
 

In the window seat of an airplane above the vast American West I am alone, seeking familiarity outside my window. Mountains with snowy shoulders stretch below, their size giving the illusion of closeness. The white horizon they break into zigs and zags eases upwards into blue sky, and dilutes the sharpness of the most distant peaks. Just as the landscape is wrapping me into itself, blocky cartoon letters painted on the wingtip of my plane snap me back behind the three-paned glass and molded grey plastic of my window. “HOWDY,” it says in a yellow found mainly on toy dump trucks. I don’t reply.

There are few places I feel more alone than in the window seat of a crowded airplane. There, in a lumpy seat, stuck between a mass of disgruntled strangers and the vast unfamiliar landscape far below, I fold in on myself. As someone who builds energy in alone time, this is enjoyable. For those strangers next to me, I’m sure I come across, unfortunately, as less than amicable.

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Lessons about Death and Dying
from an Irish Wake

A Feature Review of

My Father’s Wake:
How the Irish Teach Us How to Live, Love and Die

Kevin Toolis

Hardback: Da Capo Press, 2017
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Reviewed by Cynthia Beach

 

Syntax and word, rhythm and rite roll and surge in this tribute to a wordsmith’s dying father, Sonny—and to the neglected Irish practice of “waking the dead.”

Journalist and filmmaker Kevin Toolis confronts our cultural death denial and the “Western Death Machine.” He says, “Death is a whisper in the Anglo-Saxon world. Instinctively we feel we should dim the lights, lower our voices and draw the screens. We want to give the dead, the dying, the grieving, room.”

In other words, we don’t want to address the fact of death. How important is a book about death? Well, Toolis suggests, rather vital.  “If you breathe,” he says, “you die.”

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Compassionate Presence
 
A Review of

Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life
Joyce Rupp

Paperback: Sorin Books, 2018.
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Reviewed by June Mears Driedger

 

Soon after a close friend’s death, Joyce Rupp had a life-changing experience which she describes in her new book, Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life (Sorin Books). As she stood at her patio door:

I was trying to absorb this enormous loss when a hummingbird fluttered in front of my face, just a few inches outside the glass. It hovered there, facing me for several minutes, enough time to convince me that my friend—who treasured those little creatures—was assuring me all would be well. As the tiny bird departed, an inner knowing swept through my being: ‘Love is all that counts.’ Since that moment I have never been the same. (2-3)

Rupp attributes this “showing” by her friend as a compassionate presence, convinced that the message was for her. “I turned from the patio door determined to give the rest of my life to living in such a way that compassion would be the most essential focus.” (2-3)

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The Abundance of Wholeness, Completeness, and Fullness

A Feature Review of

Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World
Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart


Paperback: IVP Books
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Reviewed by Tamara Hill Murphy

 

Approximately a dozen years ago, my husband and I attended a conference which featured, among several stellar speakers, Eugene Peterson. We were young, newly entrenched in church ministry, and looking for some answers to our big questions. While Peterson gave his talk with his signature warmth and wisdom, it was the post-talk Q & A session that has stuck with us all these years. I don’t quite remember what the questioner asked, but it’s safe to assume it was similar to the kind of internal big questions my husband and I carried into the conference. The question hung in the air, the room of several hundred people silent, pens poised over notebooks to capture the insight of a seasoned minister. The silence lasted a moment or two as Peterson shifted in his chair, looking off toward the ceiling, and finally intoned: “I’m wary of big ideas.”

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A True-pointing Compass
for the Journey

A Review of 

The Prayer Wheel:
A Daily Guide To Renewing Your Faith With A Rediscovered 
Spiritual Practice

Patton Dodd, Jana Riess and David Van Biema

Hardback: Convergent, 2018
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Reviewed by Aarik Danielsen
 

Abbreviated from the review in 
our Lent 2018 magazine issue. 
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and be sure to receive our next issue… 

 

A fulfilling prayer life can seem like a white whale to many Christians: faraway, elusive, hard to line up in your sights. If the ideal and reality of prayer fail to match up frequently, disciples tend to turn their faces toward one of three sources of resolution. There’s innovation— inventing a new acrostic or mnemonic, treating an obscure Biblical prayer as the key that will unlock all heavenly doors. There’s tradition—planting yourself in ancient gardens such as lectio divina, or forging personal habits, custom-made to bring prayer to life. Saddest of all is attrition, when spiritual fruit dies on the vine because a Christian never grows comfortable in prayer or assumes God is too cruel or too cool to answer.

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